'Turning point' for sheriff's department

Joyce L. Miller
Special to the Lake Sun, USA TODAY NETWORK
Camden County Sheriff Tony Helms.

Despite a low turnout, those voters who did go to the polls overwhelmingly passed a 1/4 cent sales tax earmarked for the Camden County Sheriff's Department.

Voters approved the tax by a 62 to 38 percent margin with 1,855 yes votes to 1,131 voting against the tax. Voter turnout was 9 percent of the county's 32,673 registered voters. 

Camden County Sheriff Tony Helms said the passage of the tax is a turning point for his department. Over the course of the next few weeks, Helms said he will be putting together a budget for the sales tax receipts that are expected to generate over $2 million a year.

The additional revenue will be used to raise the exiting starting wage to $42,000 a year for deputies and add an additional 10 officers to the department. Helms will budget for two additional deputies in 2023 and 2024.

Helms also plans to evaluate and improve the pay scale for jailers and dispatchers that work for Camden County. 

Helms said he is also looking to create a fund that would allow the department to have reserves for the future. 

"This going to allow the department to grow, attract deputies from other areas with competitive wages and retain them," he said. "The voters have passed the tax and now it is up to the sheriff's department to implement the changes and make a difference in law enforcement for Camden County." 

Helms said a sales tax in a tourism area makes sense since visitors add to the seasonal changes that require more officers during the summer months. By going with a sales tax, it is not just those who live here that help pay for the increased need  for services.